[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/02/03/darrah.personal.history.gay.military.experience/tzleft.joan.darrah.courtesy.jpg caption="Retired Navy Capt. Joan E. Darrah served 29½ years as a naval intelligence officer and was chief of staff and deputy commander at the Office of Naval Intelligence. Darrah lives with her partner of 19 years, Lynne Kennedy, in Alexandria, Virginia. " width=300 height=169]
Joan E. Darrah
Special to CNN
When I first joined the Navy, I had no idea that I was gay. I was well into my career when I realized this fact, but I was doing well as evidenced by the awards and promotions I was receiving.
In addition, I really enjoyed what I was doing and felt I was making a difference. So I opted to continue to serve, even though I knew that I would have to hide my true identity.
For most of my career in the Navy, I lived two lives and went to work each day wondering if that would be my last. Whenever the admiral would call me to his office, 99.9 percent of me was certain that it was to discuss an operational issue. But there was always that fear in the back of my mind that somehow I had been "outed," and he was calling me to his office to tell me that I was fired. So many simple things that straight people take for granted could have ended my career, even a comment such as "My partner and I went to the movies last night."
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